Therefore, they called these days 'Purim' from the word 'pur'.(Esther 9:26)

"Pur" is the Persian word for lottery. (Ibn Ezra on the above verse) It is necessary to understand what the meaning of "lot" is. For the verse implies that it is the central miracle of Purim, since the entire miracle is named after this word.

The Zohar states, "Yom Kippur is similar to Purim". (Tikunei Zohar p. 57b) Because Yom Kippur is described as being only similar to Purim, it follows that Purim is on a higher level than Yom Kippur.

Purim and Yom Kippur are both associated with lotteries. The Talmud relates, "On Yom Kippur there were two goats, identical in appearance, stature and monetary value." (Yoma 62a) A lottery determined which goat would be sacrificed and which one would be sent into the wilderness. Consequently, the repentance of Yom Kippur, in all its magnitude, was contingent on a lottery. A lottery is what brought about the miracle of Purim…

"From the congregation of Israel he shall take two he-goats for a sin offering". Aaron shall cast lots upon the two he-goats: one lot 'for G‑d' and one lot for 'Azazel' [a particular mountain precipice in the desert]." (Lev. 16:5-6)
The word "Azazel" is a construct of two Hebrew words "az" and "el". "Az" means "difficult"; "El" translates as "strong". (Siftei Chochamim on the above verse)

Leviticus continues: Aaron shall bring near the he-goat designated by lot for G‑d and sacrifice it as a sin offering. And the he-goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be left alive before G‑d to provide atonement, by sending it to Azazel, the wilderness. (Lev. 16:8-10)

The Mishna relates how the lottery was performed: "Two identical sin-offering goats were brought before the High Priest inside the Temple. One goat was positioned facing the priest's right side; the other goat was placed opposite his left side. A wooden box containing two wooden lots was placed before the High Priest. On one of the lots was written 'to G‑d'. Upon the second was inscribed 'To Azazel'. (Mishna Yoma 3:9)

"After shaking the box to mix up the lots, the High Priest reached inside and removed them, one in each hand. The lot that was taken by his right hand was placed on the goat opposite his right side. And the lot that was grasped in his left hand was put on the left-sided goat. (Ibid. 4:1)

"The High Priest then tied a red cord onto the head of the goat chosen to be sent to Azazel. Then he lashed a gold band around the neck of the goat selected for sacrifice." (Ibid. 4:2)

A lottery figures prominently in the Purim story as well: a lottery is what brought about the miracle of Purim. Queen Esther records in the Megilla, "In the first month, the month of Nissan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, pur, that is a lot, was cast in the presence of Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar." (Esther 3:7) Haman didn't know that Moses was also born on the seventh of Adar…

[First Haman had a lottery performed to ascertain the month in which he would find success. Then a second lottery was made to determine the winning month's fortuitous day. (Rashi on the above verse)]

Haman knew that Moses, the redeemer of the Jews, had passed away on the seventh day of the month of Adar. So when the lottery fell on the seventh of Adar, Haman rejoiced. But Haman didn't know that Moses was also born on the seventh of Adar! (Yoma 13b) The very fact that the lottery fell on the date of Moses' birth was in itself the principal miracle.

Lotteries operate on a plane which is higher than reason and understanding. "Lots are cast in secret; their judgment is from G‑d." (Proverbs 16:33) In respect to lotteries, one doesn't rely on reason or will. Rather he expects the outcome to be decided solely by the lottery. Lotteries are above intelligence and will; they reach the Master of Will. [The workings of a lottery are unperceived by man. Although people believe lotteries are left to chance, in truth the outcome isn't accidental. Rather, the Providence of G‑d guides it. (Malbim on the above verse)] On Purim…the lottery itself brings about the miracle…

Although Yom Kippur and Purim are both dependent on the result of lotteries, nevertheless Purim is loftier than Yom Kippur. This is because on Yom Kippur atonement is contingent on repentance. But on Purim, additional factors aren't necessary. The lottery itself brings about the miracle.

There exists, however, a second correlation that equates Yom Kippur and Purim. Both holidays are above G‑d's name Havayah. On Yom Kippur repentance arouses the innermost aspect of G‑d. The Zohar describes this level as G‑d's Essence, which is prior to - that is above - the revelation present in His four-letter Name. (Zohar III, chapter 7; Likutei Torah, page 28:2)

As King David implored, "I seek Your Inwardness." (Psalms 27:8) The Hebrew word for "inwardness" is derived form the same two-letter root as the word for "preceding". G‑d's name Havayah is the revealed source of the 613 Commandments. As the verse intimates, "This is my Name eternally, and this is my remembrance from generation to generation." (Ex. 3:15) The numerical value of "my Name" (in Hebrew,"sh'mi") is 350. When added to the first two letters of G‑d's name - yud and hei - the tally comes to 365. This equals the number of Torah prohibitions. When a positive commandment isn't observed…then the mitzvah's source in the letters of G‑d's Name becomes blemished…

"My remembrance" [in Hebrew, "zichri"] equals 237. Added to the last two letters of the name Havayah - vav and hei - the number 248 is reached. These are the 248 positive commandments of the Torah.

When a positive commandment isn't observed or a negative commandment violated, then the mitzvah's source in the letters of G‑d's Name becomes blemished. On Yom Kippur, repentance arouses G‑d's Mercy, manifest in the inner aspect of the sefira of keter, which is above the name Havayah.

G‑d's Name commences with the letter yud - symbolizing the sefira of chochma. From within the inner aspect of keter shines forth the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Since they originate from a place, which is higher than the source of Torah and mitzvot, the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy have the power to correct defects in the Name. Hence Yom Kippur is before - or above - G‑d's Name.

Purim is also higher than G‑d's Name. That's the reason G‑d's name Havayah doesn't appear even once in the entire Book of Esther.

[The upper point of the Hebrew letter yud [the first letter of the name Havayah] corresponds to the outer dimension of the sefira of keter. Allegorized as a human skull, this aspect of keter serves as G‑d's faculty of Will. Will, then, is the concealed source of mitzvot. Likened to 613 pathways embedded in the skull, the mitzvot are expressions of G‑d's Will. (Zohar, Idra Rabba, p. 129) King David hints, "All G‑d's way" (Psalms 25:10) and "I will see your ways" (Ibid. 119:15). The numerical value of the word "keter" is 620. This hints that Will is the source of the 613 Torah commandments plus the seven rabbinical injunctions.]

On Purim, one reaches a level above Intelligence and Will, until connecting with the Master of Will Himself.


Adapted from a discourse on Purim 5713/1953

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